Sunday, January 13, 2008

On with the Motley

Story contd.

Thou art not a man, thou’rt but a jester!
On with the motley, and the paint, and the powder!
The people pay thee, and want their laugh, you know!
If Harlequin thy Columbine has stolen, laugh Punchinello!
The world will cry, "Bravo!"

I saw an old Italian film of the opera Pagliacci and when the eponymous hero sang ‘On with the motley’ I thought I understood his angst. In spite of my lovely boys, my home, a good husband, my shop, the theatre and good friends I felt this inner yearning and it is only now, at this late stage of my life, that I understand what I was looking for.

The theatre club were impressed by my having attended a production course and invited me to do one myself. I thought I had better start with a one act play and as John Mortimer was a big name then I chose his ‘Lunch Hour.’ It was the era when the’ Anyone for tennis?’ middle class drama was beginning to look old hat and the theatre of the absurd was rearing its ugly head.

‘Lunch Hour’ was a sad/comic tale of a man and a younger woman having a liaison in a shabby hotel near King’s Cross. The only other character is the Manageress who, unbeknownst to the girl has been told a long involved cover story of his wife having travelled down from Scarborough, with the children who have been left with a sister in law in another part of the town. Unfortunately the girl knows nothing of this and in the course of the crazy conversation discovers she has three children, a sister in law, and that there have been family rifts since the wedding.

It all becomes real to the girl and she quickly becomes the injured wife, romance goes out of the window and the affair is over before it has begun. It must have been hilarious with the original cast of Wendy Craig, Emlyn Williams and Alison Leggatt but whilst my man and manageress were very good, the girl couldn’t quite get it. Still the committee liked it enough to ask me to do a full blown production. This time I would make sure the key parts were played by more experienced actors and ‘The Deep Blue Sea’ and then ‘Separate Tables’ were productions I was proud of.

Julia - (who I had met through Pete– the first director I had worked with) -with all her experience - became a mentor and I looked forward to the day when I could have her in one of my plays. I had been intrigued by the play ‘The Unquiet Spirit’ by Jean –Jacques Bernard and Gary had even designed a set for it but Julia read it and said it would depress her too much and I understood what she meant. Not only was she a successful actress, director and writer she was also a member of the Crime Writer’s and invited me to go with her to their Christmas party.

I was thrilled to meet Kathleen Whitehorn; she was a journalist I much admired and had just written a very funny article on sluts (with regard to dress) and admitted she was one of the first order. I proudly told her I – at that very moment - was relying on a safety pin to hold up my bra. Julia said she was asked who was the girl who looked like she had escaped from a James Bond movie – not the impression I wanted to give at all.

Another trip to London was to a lecture by a foreign man -whose name escapes me - on set design. When I asked him how I could create the effect of peeling wall-paper for ‘Lunch Hour’ he suggested I paper the set and then peel it. No short cuts then!

The sixties was a time of change and people tended to question the beliefs they had hitherto accepted. I became increasingly aware of the gulfs between the haves and the have-nots; of the families who lived their happy peaceful lives without much care for the unhappy dysfunctional people and I rebelled against anything that branded anyone as lesser humans. I had always been receptive to other people’s worries but now it was as if I had a sign on my forehead which said 'Stop here and tell me your problems. ' This was some time before I actually became a Samaritan and before I befriended someone who helped me to keep my head above water.


R. Sherman said...

Producing plays, too? Is there anything you haven't done. As for the "peeling wallpaper" guy, was there a bit of condescension in his voice? If so, did you strategically and forcefully place a knee to his groin?

Just asking.


PI said...

Randall: I was in the audience and he was on stage so lots of people to witness my mortification. I don't think he intended to be snide and it gave the audience a laugh in what had been a less than riveting lecture:)

Nea said...

What's wrong with looking like the girl that has escaped from a James Bond movie?

PI said...

Nea: it reinforces the 'dumb blonde' myth and throws doubt on my gravitas.
Nowadays I'd be more forgiving:)

Shane said...

Do you have a favourite theatre space? Recollections of especially impressively designed sets?

On set design, the most impressive I ever saw was a split level (upstairs/downstairs) construction for the Anthony Schaffer play 'Murderer' at a rep theatre in Stoke-on-Trent - way beyond what I'd have expected.


You were a clever Bond Girl ;-)

Samaritans eh? Good stuff. Never yet but maybe one day when I stop being macho

PI said...

Shane: some of the Ayckbourn plays have ingenious sets, a play called - I think- 'Oliver's Island' at Salisbury made an impression - it's difficult to think to order on a Sunday night. I'm always dazzled by what they do in the musical theatre these days.

4d: one of my sons - oddly enough started about six months ago and it sounds more demanding, time wise, than when I did it in the seventies, or was it the sixties?

kenju said...

There were many times I'd have been thrilled to look as though I had just escaped from James Bond's clutches!!! I'd have been thrilled to be IN james Bond's clutches - and I wouldn't have tried to escape.....LOL

(Sean Connery, I mean)

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

You truly are accomplished, Pat, with great spirit.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Oh Pat....this is ALL so wonderfully interesting to me, with all the years I have participated in "theatre"...How great that you were directing! I have never directed a whole three act play...In fact, I'm not sure I could, or would want to...BUT, I have directed shorter pieces and wondered, did you enjoy working with the actors? I did enjoy that, very very much, except when there would some semi-crazo person...(lol)..If you know what I mean....! I cannot wait to hear more of all this, my dear....!

Eryl Shields said...

Is there anything you haven't done Pat? I think you must be the most accomplished person I (virtually) know.

PI said...

Judy: you bad girl you!

Sam: I'm not really.

Naomi: some were a joy - some less so. I'll enlarge in my next episode:)

Eryl: No No No! It's just that I have lived a long long time.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Your sidebar said you had three careers but I think you had a fourth one as a thespian. I look forward to reading more about the 'someone' - you tease, you!

Anonymous said...

see, it is/was an exciting life - don't put yourself down!


PI said...

Zinnia: I got a lot of fun out of acting but no mazoomah. Directing gave me lots of satisfaction when it went well. Trust you to spot the 'someone':)

Belle: it was at times. Strange how it is more difficult to remember the closer the past is.

keith hillman said...

I'm not sure how I found myself here, but I'm glad I have!

I too met Kathleen Whitehorn. She was a good friend of ny inlaws and I sat around a dinner table with her at their home in Hampstead.

More recently I become involved with the theatrical set when I opened a restaurant in the theatre area of Eastbourne. Today I can hardly turn on the TV or watch a British movie without seeing someone I have fed and spent time chatting with!

I look forward to returning to your site..

PI said...

Keith: welcome! dinner with Katherine Whitehorn sounds like a fun evening - her late husband seemed a nice chap also. Do you remember the Penguins of Bexhill? I was once invited to join them but was busy with babies. As I remember they were going on to great things and were then scuppered by a TV strike. That's going back a long way. Come back any time:)

Guyana-Gyal said...

Aha, I knew it, you're a secret James Bond gal :-)

The 60's fascinate me, I gobble up books, magazines, anything that explains that strange time.

Holding your head above the water...I hope one day, when / if you get the time, you'll write about that.

PI said...

GG:I will be writing about that - quite soon.